Austrian law student Max Schrems recently asked Facebook to turn over information it had on file about him. He received a 1,200-plus page report that included not only obvious material like friend lists and photos, but records of chats, “likes,” “pokes,” people he defriended, material he “deleted,” and event invitations -- whether he responded or it.
Schrems, who joined with some friends to launch Europe v. Facebook in August, says that he and his friends “just want to be able to use Facebook without having to worry about privacy.” He says in an FAQ about his site that his goals are “transparency” and “user control.”
Schrems was able to obtain Facebook's information about him because Europe's broad privacy laws give people the right to demand data about themselves that's held by companies. Even in the U.S., however, his findings making waves. Most recently, four U.S. lawmakers wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to ask him to explain why the social networking service has such extensive dossiers about its users.
“We are concerned that although the user was under the impression that this information was deleted at the user's request, Facebook continued to retain the information,” wrote Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Joe Barton (R-Texas), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), all members of a bi-partisan privacy caucus.
“Under what circumstances do you retain data after users request its deletion?” they ask. “How might consumers benefit from such retention?”
The lawmakers also ask for answers to questions like how long Facebook stores data, whether it's encrypted and how the company disposes of it.
A company spokesperson said in a statement that the company “care(s) deeply about respecting the expectations of the people who trust Facebook with their information.”
The lawmakers asked for a response from Facebook by Nov. 21.